Exclusive: Kidnapped Americans' Cell Phone Guides Yemen Rescuers

Photo: Kidnapped Americans Speak Out After Ordeal in Yemen: US Citizens Used Blackberries in Captivity, Helped Lead to Their Release

Two Americans held hostage this week by Yemeni tribesmen said they were able to use their cell phones to tell authorities where they were, even sending photos of their hiding place.

And while they were held against their will, they also said the kidnappers were hospitable, even slaughtering a goat in their honor.

Ludmila Yamalova and Glen Davis were kidnapped while touring the rural al-Haima region of Yemen, an area they considered "off the beaten path, but still considered safe."

After stopping to take photos with their two Yemeni tour guides, the couple was surrounded by 10 men in tribal dress, armed with guns and daggers.

VIDEO: Glen Davis and Ludmilla Yamanova describe their terrifying day in captivity.

They were "very agitated, very scary, very angry," said Davis. "It appeared they didn't have a plan except to abduct us. And when they did, they didn't know what to do."

On the nearly three hour drive into the remote countryside, Yamalova, a Californian and prominent attorney in Dubai, slid her hands into her purse and secretly texted a contact at the U.S. consulate.

"I was able to send them a message that said, we've been kidnapped in Yemen, this is not a joke," she told ABC News.

"There were four of us, us two and the two guides. So through them [the guides] we were able to get some information, and as that information came in we were reporting it back through the cell phone," she said.

The kidnappers drove their captives to a rustic hilltop castle in a village with no electricity or running water. After being up a dark staircase to the top floor, they were left alone. The tour guides were given the option to leave, but they stayed to translate for the couple and keep them company.

"Through our guides we determined that [the kidnappers] wanted to get someone released from the prison from their tribe, that we were going to be the hostage in the middle that allowed them to get this guy out," Yamalova said.

From the top of the tower they pulled together information to send back to U.S. officials, a kind of trail of digital bread crumbs that would help the Yemeni government find them and negotiate their release.

"I used my phone to take a view from our window, and sent that photo," said Yamalova.

"We communicated the name of the village, the name of the tribe, the name of the person who abducted us, even the name of the person they wanted to release?where we were, the view from our 'hotel,' and the picture of the leader himself. So they had everything."

Yemeni security forces, they later learned, would surround the area. A U.S. embassy official gave them directions to check in every few hours, conserving cell phone battery and preserving their morale through what could be weeks of waiting.

Yemen Kidnapping: Patience with a Tribal Process

"Their message was be patient. Most of these situations resolve safely, but there is a process that needs to play out," said Yamalova.

Kidnappings are common in Yemen where tribes exercise control over provincial areas, and swap hostages for concessions from the government. As the presence of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has become more pronounced, U.S. officials say the terror network has become increasingly involved in the kidnapping trade.

From the start of their captivity Davis, and Yamalova had a view of the verdant gorges below. They watched coming cars and tribal sheiks file into meetings, talks over what to do with their American captives.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...